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Full text of "Father Damien : an open letter to the Reverend Dr. Hyde of Honolulu"

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Rev. Wm, Goodrow 


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Jfatfjer ISamten 

Jfatfier Bamien 

Hn ©pen Xetter to tbc 

"RcvcrenO 2)r. JK^Oc ot Monolulu from 

■Robert Xoui6 Stevenson 


Zbe Hve /ibaria pre00 

Itotrc S>ame, InMana 
"CI. S. ». 

DEC 4 1959 

J^ubligfjer'fi preface. 

<y|^HE constant demand for the far-famed 
^^ "Open Letter" in durable rather than 
dainty form, but more especially the 
reiterated assertion that Stevenson regretted 
this production and would have recalled it 
had recall been possible, are the raison d'etre 
of the present reprint. An American author 
of some repute has had the hardihood to 
declare in one of his books that "Stevenson 
did not really b.l ve what he wrote, neither 
did he intend to mte what he did. . . . Steven- 
son could not h:,v^ been honest at heart when 
he wrote his .'o.;ier to Dr. Hyde." It is well, 
l)erhaps, for t'is worthy that the pen of the 
man whom he thus defames is now powerless. 
Feeling sure that some day when "in 
his resting grave" the defender of Father 
Damien would need to be defended himself, 
we took care several years ago to secure from 
Mrs. Stevenson a statement regarding the 
"Open Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hyde." In 
answer to our inquiry as to the truth of the 
assertion, so often repeated, that her husband 
regretted the letter, and that before his death 
his opinion of Father Damien had undergone 
a change, Mrs. Stevenson entered an indig- 
nantly emphatic denial which is p'resented 
on another page. This testimony, we think, 
should forever settle the matter. The inquiry 

publidber'd preface. 

was made through the late Charles Warren 
Stoddard, who was then contemplating a 
new and enlarged edition (since published) 
of his own beautiful tribute to Father Damien, 
"The Lepers of Molokai." Mrs. Stevenson's 
letter is in our possession. 

It will further enhance the value and 
interest of the present edition of Stevenson's 
powerful apologia to state that it is an exact 
reprint of the original issue, now of extreme 
rarity, which ' has a few corrections in the 
writer's own hand. The "Open Letter" was first 
printed in a small pamphlet of thirty-two 
pages, at Sydney, N. S. W., on March 27, 1890. 
Many editions of it had been published before 
Mr. Stevenson's death, and it is worth recalling 
that he persistently refused to accept pay- 
ment from any source for this defence of the 
Apostle of Molokai. He once wrote to a 
London pubHsher: "The letter to Dr. Hyde 
is yours, or any man's. I will never touch a 
penny of remuneration. I do not stick at 
murder; I draw the line at cannibaHsm. I 
could not eat a penny roll that piece of bludgeon- 
ing brought me." 

The use of the Rev. Dr. Rawnsley's exquisite 
sonnet, from the collection of poems entitled 
"Valete," is with his kind permission, 

Notre Dame, Ind. 
Jan. 10, 1911. 

0ivsi, B^tiert Houis; i^tetien£(on. 

... As to the "Open Letter to Dr. 
Hyde," nothing can make me believe that 
Louis ever regretted the subject - matter of 
that piece of writing. To me, up to his 
last hours, he spoke always in the same 
strain. His admiration for the work and 
character of "that saint, that martyr," 
as he invariably called Father Damien, 
remained unchanged; and any mention 
of the cowardly attack on the dead man's 
memory brought a flush of anger into his 
face and a fire to his eye that were 
unmistakable. . . . 

J^atber 2)amien 

Hn ©pen Xetter to tbe TRcvcxentf Dr. M^^e of 
•fconoluln from iRobcrt Xouls Stevenaon 

Sydney, February 25, 1890. 

^^ I R , — It may probably occur 
^^ to you that we have met, 
and visited, and conversed ; 
on my side with interest. You may 
remember that you have done me 
several courtesies for which I w^as pre- 
pared to be grateful. But there are 
duties which come before gratitude, and 
offences which justly' divide friends, far 
more acquaintances. Your letter to the 
Reverend H. B. Gage is a document 
which, in my sight, if you had filled me 
w^ith bread v^-hen I ^vas starving, if you 

^atbec Damien. 

had sat tip to nurse my father when he 
lay a-dying, would j^et absolve me from 
the bonds of gratitude. You know 
enough, doubtless, of the process of 
canonization to be aware that, a hun- 
dred years after the death of Damien, 
there will appear a man charged with 
the painful office of the devil's advocate. 
After that noble brother of mine, and of 
all frail clay, shall have lain a century 
at rest, one shall accuse, one defend him. 
The circumstance is unusual that the 
devil's advocate should be a volunteer, 
should be a member of a sect immedi- 
ately rival, and should make haste to 
take upon himself his ugly office ere 
the bones are cold ; unusual, and of a 
taste which I shall leave my readers 
free to qualify; unusual, and to me in- 
spiring. If I have at all learned the 
trade of using words to convey truth 
and to arouse emotion, vou have at 

■Robert Xouis Stevenson. 

last furnished me with a subject. For 
it is in the interest of all mankind and 
the cause of public decency in every 
quarter of the world, not only that 
Damien should be righted, but that 
you and your letter should be displayed 
at length, in their true colors, to the 
jiublic eye. 

To do this properly, I must begin 
by quoting you at large: I shall then 
proceed to criticise your utterance from 
several points of view, divine and 
human, in the course of which I shall 
attempt to draw^ again and with more 
specification the character of the dead 
saint whom it has pleased you to 
vilify : so much being done, I shall say 
farewell to you forever. 

''Honolulu, Aug. 2, 1889. 
"Rev. H. B. Gage. 

''Dear Brother: — In answ^er to your 
inquiries about Father Damien, I can 

f atber Damien. 

only reply that Ave who knew the man 
are surprised at the extravagant news- 
paper laudations, as if he was a most 
saintly philanthropist. The simple 
truth is, he was a coarse, dirty man, 
headstrong and bigoted. He w^as not 
sent to Molokai, but went there with- 
out orders; did not staj' at the leper 
settlement ( before he became one him- 
self), but circulated freeh' over the 
whole island ( less than half the island 
is devoted to the lepers), and he came 
often to Honolulu. He had no hand 
in the reforms and improvements in- 
augurated, which were the work of 
our Board of Health, as occasion re- 
quired and means were provided. He 
was not a pure man in his relations 
with women, and the leprosy of whicli 
he died should be attributed to his vices 
and carelessness. Others have done 
much for the lepers, our own ministers. 

■Robert Xoula Stevenson. 

the government physicians, and so 
forth, but never with the catholic 
idea of meriting eternal life, 
"lours, etc., 

"C. M. Hydb."* 

To deal fitly w4th a letter so ex- 
traordinary', I must draw at the outset 
on my private knowledge of the signa- 
tory and his sect. It may offend others ; 
scarcely j'ou, who have been so busy to 
collect, so bold to publish, gossip on 
your rivals. And this is perhaps the 
moment when I may best explain to 
you the character of what you are to 
read : I conceive you as a man quite 
beyond and below the reticences of 
civility: w^ith what measure you mete, 
wdth that shall it be measured you 
again; with you at last, I rejoice to 
feel the button off the foil and to plunge 

•From the Sydney Presbyterian, October 26, 

fMhcx Damien. 

home. And if in aught that I shall say, 
I should offend others, your colleagues, 
whom I respect and remember with 
affection, I can but offer them my re- 
gret; I am not free, I am inspired by 
the consideration of interests far more 
large; and such pain as can be in- 
flicted by anything from me must be 
indeed trifling when compared with the 
pain with which they read j-^our letter. 
It is not the hangman, but the criminid, 
that brings dishonor on the house. 

You belong, sir, to a sect — I believe my 
sect, and that in which my ancestors 
labored — which has enjoyed, and partly 
failed to utilize, an exceptional advan- 
tage in the islands of Hawaii. The 
first missionaries came; they found the 
land already self- purged of its old and 
bloody faith; they were embraced, al- 
most on their arrival, with enthusiasm ; 
what troubles they supported came far 

■Robert Xouls Stevenson. 7 

more from whites than from Hawaii- 
ans; and to these last they stood (in 
a rough figure ) in the shoes of God. 
This is not the place to enter into the 
degree or causes of their failure, such 
as it is. One element alone is pertinent, 
and must here be plainly dealt with. In 
the course of their evangelical calling, 
they — or too many of them — grew 
rich. It may be news to you that the 
houses of missionaries are a cause of 
mocking on the streets of Honolulu. 
It will at least be news to you that, 
when I returned your civil visit, the 
driver of my cab commented on the 
size, the taste, and the comfort of your 
home. It would have been news cer- 
tainly to myself had any one told me 
that afternoon that I should live to 
drag such matter into print. But you 
see, sir, how you degrade better men 
to your own level; and it is needful 

yatbcr Damien. 

that those who are to judge betwixt 
3'ou and me, betwixt Damien and the 
devil's advocate, should understand 
3'our letter to have been penned in a 
house which could raise, and that very 
justly, the envy and the comments of 
the passers-by. I think (to employ a 
phrase of yours, which I admire ) it 
"should be attributed" to you that 
3'ou have never visited the scene of 
Damien's life and death. If you had, and 
had recalled it, and looked about your 
pleasant rooms, even your pen perhaps 
would have been stayed. 

Your sect ( and, remember, as far as 
any sect avows me, it is mine ) has 
not done ill in a worldly sense in the 
Hawaiian Kingdom. When calamity 
l^efell their innocent parishioners, when 
leprosy descended and took root in the 
Eight Islands, a quid pro quo was to 
be looked for. To that j)rosi)erous mis- 

"Robert louls Stevenson. 9 

sion, and to you, as one cf its adorn- 
ments, God had sent at last an oppor- 
tunity. I know I am touching here 
upon a nerve acutely sensitive. I know- 
that others of your colleagues look back 
on the inertia of your church, and the 
intrusive and decisive heroism of Da- 
mien, with something almost to be 
called remorse. I am sure it is so with 
yourself; I am persuaded your letter 
was inspired by a certain envy, not 
essentially ignoble, and the one human 
trait to be espied in that performance. 
You were thinking of the lost chance, 
the past day; of that which should 
have been conceived and was not; of 
the service due and not rendered. Time 
was, said the voice in your ear, in your 
pleasant room, as you sat raging and 
writing ; and if the " words written were 
base beyond parallel, the rage, I am 
happy to repeat — it is the only com- 

10 jfatbcr Damien. 

pliment I shall paj you — the rage was 
almost virtuous. But, sir, when we 
have failed, and another has succeeded ; 
when we have stood by, and another 
has stepped in; when we sit and grow 
bulky in our charming mansions, and 
a plain, uncouth peasant steps into the 
battle, under the eyes of God, and suc- 
cors the afflicted, and consoles the 
d3ring, and is himself afflicted in his 
turn, and dies upon the field of honor 
— the battle can not be retrieved as 
your unhappy irritation has suggested. 
It is a lost battle, and lost forever. 
One thing remained to you in your 
defeat — some rags of common honor; 
and these you have made haste to cast 

Common honor; not the honor of 
having done anything right, but the 
honor of not having done aught con- 
spicuously foul ; the honor of the inert : 

IRobcrt Xouia Stevenson. ii 

that was what remained to you. We 
are not all expected to be Damiens; a 
man may conceive his duty more nar- 
rowly, he may love his comforts better ; 
and none will cast a stone at him for 
that. But will a gentleman of your 
reverend profession allow me an ex- 
ample from the fields of gallantry? 
When two gentlemen compete for the 
favor of a lady, and the one succeeds 
and the other is rejected, and ( as will 
sometimes happen) matter damaging to 
the successful rival's credit reaches the 
ear of the defeated, it is held by plain 
men of no pretensions that his mouth 
is, in the circumstance, almost neces- 
sarily closed. Your church and Da- 
mien's were in Hawaii upon a rivalry 
to do well: to help, to edify, to set 
divine examples. You having (in one 
huge instance ) failed, and Damien suc- 
ceeded, I marvel it should not have 

12 yatber Damfcn. 

occurred to you that you were doomed 
to silence; that when you had been 
outstripped in that high rivalry, and 
sat inglorious in the midst of your well- 
being, in your pleasant room — and 
Damien, crowned with glories and hor- 
rors, toiled and rotted in that pigsty 
of his under the cliffs of Kalawao — you, 
the elect who would not, were the last 
man on earth to collect and propagate 
gossip on the volunteer who would and 

I think I see you — for I try to see you 
in the flesh as I w^rite these sentences — 
I think I see you leap at the word pig- 
sty, a hyperbolical expression at the 
best. "He had no hand in the re- 
forms," he was "a coarse, dirty man"; 
these were your own words; and you 
may think it possible that I am come 
to support you with fresh evidence. 
In a sense it is even so. Damien has 

"Robert Xouts Stevenson. 13 

been too much depicted with a conven- 
tional halo and conventional features; 
so drawn by men who perhaps had not 
the eye to remark or the pen to express 
the individual; or who perhaps were 
only blinded and silenced by generous 
admiration, such as I partly envy for 
myself — such as you, if your soul were 
enlightened, would envy on your 
bended knees. It is the least defect of 
such a method of portraiture that it 
makes the path easy for the devil's 
advocate, and leaves for the misuse of 
the slanderer a considerable field of 
truth. For the truth that is suppressed 
by friends is the readiest weapon of the 
enemy. The world, in your despite, 
may perhaps owe you something, if 
your letter be the means of substituting 
once for all a credible likeness for a 
wax abstraction. For, if that world 
at all remember you, on the day w^hen 

14 ffatbcr Damlcn. 

Damien of Molokai shall be named 
Saint, it will be in virtue of one work : 
your letter to the Reverend H. B. Gage. 
You may ask on what authority I 
speak. It was my inclement destiny 
to become acquainted, not with Da- 
mien, but with Dr. Hyde. When I 
visited the lazaretto, Damien was al- 
ready in his resting grave. But such 
information as I have, I gathered on the 
spot in conversation w^ith those w^ho 
knew him well and long : some indeed 
who revered his memory; but others 
who had sparred and wrangled with 
him, who beheld him with no halo, 
who perhaps regarded him with small 
respect, and through whose unpre- 
pared and scarcely partial communica- 
tions the plain, human features of the 
man shone on me convincingly. These 
gave me w^hat knowledge I possess; 
and I learned it in that scene where it 

■Robert louis Stevenson. 15 

could be most completely and sensi- 
tively understood — Kalawao, which 
you have never visited, about which 
you have never so much as endeavored 
to inform yourself: for, brief as your 
letter is, j^ou have found the means 
to stumble into that confession. " Less 
than one-half of the island," you say, 
"is devoted to the lepers." Molokai 
— '' Molokai ahina,'* the "gray," lofty, 
and most desolate island — along all 
its northern side plunges a front of 
precipice into a sea of unusual pro- 
fundity. This range of cliff is, from 
east to west, the true end and frontier 
of the island. Only in one spot there 
projects into the ocean a certain tri- 
angular and rugged down, grassy, 
stony, w^indy, and rising in the midst 
into a hill with a dead crater: the 
whole bearing to the cliff that over- 
hangs it, somewhat the same relation 

16 ffatber Damfcn. 

as a bracket to a wall. With tliis hint, 
you Avill now be able to pick out the 
leper station on a map; you will be 
able to judge how much of Molokai 
is thus cut oflf between the surf and 
precipice, whether less than a half, or 
less than a quarter, or a fifth, or a 
tenth — or, say, a twentieth; and the 
next time you burst into print you will 
be in a position to share with us the 
issue of your calculations. 

I imagine you to be one of those per- 
sons who talk with cheerfulness of that 
place w^hich oxen and wainropes could 
not drag you to behold. You, who do 
not even know its situation on the map, 
probably denounce sensational descrip- 
tions, stretching your limbs the while 
in your pleasant parlor on Beretania 
Street. When I was pulled ashore there 
one early morning, there sat with me 
in the boat two Sisters, bidding fare- 

TRobcrt XouiiS Stevenson. 17 

well ( in humble imitation of Damien ) 
to the lights and jo^'s of human life. 
One of these \Yept silenth- ; I could not 
withhold myself from joining her. Had 
you been there, it is my belief that 
nature would have triumphed even in 
you ; and as the boat drew but a little 
nearer, and j^ou beheld the stairs 
crowded with abominable deforma- 
tions of our common manhood, and 
saw yourself landing in the midst of 
such a population as only now^ and 
then surrounds us in the horror of a 
nightmare — w^hat a haggard eye w^ould 
you have rolled over your reluctant 
shoulder toward the house on Bere- 
tania Street! Had j^ou gone on; had 
you found every fourth face a blot 
upon the landscape; had you visited 
the hospital and seen the butt-ends of 
human beings lying there almost un- 
recognizable, but still breathing, still 

18 yatber Damien. 

thinking, still remembering; you ^YOul(l 
have understood that life in the laza- 
retto is an ordeal from which the nerves 
of a man's spirit shrink, even as his 
eye quails under the brightness of the 
sun; you would have felt it was (even 
to-day) a pitiful place to visit and a 
hell to dwell in. It is not the fear of 
possible infection. That seems a little 
thing when compared with the j^ain, 
the pity, and the disgust of the visitor's 
surroundings, and the atmosphere of 
affliction, disease, and physical disgrace 
in which he breathes. I do not think 
I am a man more than usually timid ; 
but I never recall the days and nights 
I spent upon that island promontor}- 
(eight days and seven nights), with- 
out heartfelt thankfulness that I am 
somewhere else. I find in my diarj- 
that I speak of my stay as "a grind- 
ing experience": I have once jotted m 

■Robert Xouia Stevenson. lo 

the margin, " Harrowing- is the word "; 
and when the Mokolii bore me at hist 
toward the outer world, I kept re- 
peating to myself, with a new concep- 
tion of their pregnancy, those simijle 
words of the song — 

'"Tis the most distressful country 
That ever yet was seen." 

And observe: that w^hich I saw^ and 
suffered from was a settlement, purged, 
bettered, beautified; the new village 
built, the hospital and the Bishop's- 
Home excellently arranged ; the Sisters, 
the doctor, and the missionaries all in- 
defatigable in their noble tasks. It was 
a different place when Damien came 
there, and made his great renunciation, 
and slept that first night under a tree 
amidst his rotting brethren: alone 
with pestilence; and looking forAvard 
(with what courage, with what piti- 
ful sinkings of dread, God only knows ) 

20 yatber 2)amten. 

to a lifetime of dressing sores and 

You will say, perhaps, I am too 
sensitive, that sights as painful abound 
in cancer hospitals and are confronted 
daily by doctors and nurses. I have 
long learned to admire and envy the 
doctors and the nurses. But there is 
no cancer hospital so large and popu- 
lous as Kalawao and Kalaupapa; and 
in such a matter CYery fresh case, like 
every inch of length in the pipe of an 
organ, deepens the note of the impres- 
sion; for what daunts the onlooker 
is that monstrous sum of human suf- 
fering by which he stands surrounded. 
Lastly, no doctor or nurse is called 
upon to enter once for all the doors 
of thjit gehenna ; they do not say fare- 
well, they need not abandon hope, on 
its sad threshold; they but go for a 
time to their high calling ; and can look 

■Robert Xouls Stevenson. 21 

forward as they go to relief, to recrea- 
tion, and to rest. But Damien shut to 
with his own hand the doors of his 
own sepulchre. 

I shall now^ extract three passages 
from my diary at Kalawao. 

A. ** Damien is dead and already 
somewhat ungratefully remembered in 
the field of his labors and sufferings. 
* He was a good man, but very offi- 
cious,' says one. Another tells me he 
had fallen (as other priests so easily 
do) into something of the w^ays and 
habits of thought of a Kanaka; but 
he had the wit to recognize the fact, 
and the good sense to laugh at" [over] 
**it. A plain man it seems he was; I 
can not find he was a popular." 

B. "After Ragsdale's death" [Rags- 
dale w^as a famous Luna, or overseer, 
of the unruly settlement] "there fol- 
lowed a brief term of office by Father 

22 fatbcv S)amien. 

Damien which served only to pubHsh 
the weakness of that noble man. He 
was rough in his waj-s, and he had no 
control. Authority was relaxed; Da- 
mien's life was threatened, and he was 
soon eager to resign." 

C. "Of Damien I begin to have an 
idea. He seems to have been a man 
of the peasant class, certainly of the 
peasant type: shrewd, ignorant and 
bigoted; yet with an open mind, and 
capable of receiving and digesting a 
reproof if it were bluntly administered ; 
superbly generous in the least thing as 
well as in the greatest, and as read}' to 
give his last shirt ( although not with- 
out human grumbling) as he had been 
to sacrifice his life ; essentially indiscreet 
and officious, which made him a trouble- 
some colleague; domineering in all his 
ways, which made him incurably un- 
popular with the Kanakas, but yet 

■Robert ILouia Stevenson. 23 

destitute of real authority, so that his 
boys laughed at him, and he must carry 
out his wishes by the means of bribes. 
He learned to have a mania for doctor- 
ing; and set up the Kanakas against 
the remedies of his regular rivals: per- 
haps (if anything matter at all in the 
treatment of such a disease) the worst 
thing that he did, and certainly the 
easiest. The best and w^orst of the man 
appear very plainly in his dealings wath 
Mr. Chapman's money; he had original- 
ly laid it out" [intended to lay it out] 
"entirely for the benefit of Catholics, 
and even so not wisely; but after a 
long, plain talk, he admitted his error 
fully, and revised the list. The sad state 
of the boys' home is in part the result 
of his lack of control; in part, of his 
own slovenly w^ays and false ideas of 
hygiene. Brother officials used to call 
it 'Damien's Chinatown.' 'Well,' thev 

24 yatbcr Damien. 

would say, 'your Chinatown keeps 
growing.' And he would laugh with 
perfect good nature, and adhere to his 
errors with perfect obstinacy. So much 
I have gathered of truth about this 
plain, noble human brother and Father 
of ours ; his imperfections are the traits 
of his face, by Avhich we know him for 
our fellow; his martj'rdom and his ex- 
ample nothing can lessen or annul ; and 
only a person here on the spot can 
properlj^ aj^jjreciate their greatness.' 

I have set down these private pas- 
sages, as you perceive, without correc- 
tion; thanks to you, the public has 
them in their bluntness. They are al- 
most a list of the man's faults, for it is 
rather these that I was seeking, with 
his virtues, with the heroic profile of his 
life, I and the world were already suf- 
ficiently acquainted. I w^as besides a 
little suspicious of Catholic testimony; 

■Robert Xouis Stevenson. 25 

in no ill sense, but merely because Da- 
mien's admirers and disciples were the 
least likely to be critical. I know you 
will be more suspicious still; and the 
facts set down above were one and all 
collected from the lips of Protestants 
who had opposed the Father in his life. 
Yet I am strangely deceived, or they 
build up the image of a man, with all 
his weaknesses, essentially heroic, and 
alive with rugged honesty, generosity, 
and mirth. 

Take it for what it is, rough private 
jottings of the worst sides of Damien's 
character, collected from the lips of 
those who had labored with and (in 
your own phrase) "knew the man," — 
though I question w^hether Damien 
would have said that he knew you. 
Take it, and observe with wonder how 
well you were served by your gossips, 
how ill by your intelligence and S3rmpa- 

26 yatbec S)amien. 

thy; in how many points of fact we 
are at one, and how widely our appre- 
ciations vary. There is something 
wrong here; either with you or me. 
It is possible, for instance, that you, 
who seem to have so many ears in 
Kalawao, had heard of the affair of 
Mr. Chapman's money, and were singly 
struck by Damien's intended wrong- 
doing. I was struck with that also, 
and set it fairly down ; but I was struck 
much more by the fact that he had the 
honesty of mind to be convinced. I 
may here tell you that it was a long 
business ; that one of his colleagues sat 
with him late into the night, multiply- 
ing arguments and accusations; that 
the Father listened as usual with "per- 
fect good nature and perfect obstinacy"; 
but at the last, when he was persuaded 
— "Yes," said he, "I am very much 
obliged to you; you have done mc a 

■Robert Xouls Stevenson. 27 

service; it would have been a theft." 
There are many (not CathoHcs merely) 
who require their heroes and saints to 
be infallible; to these the story will be 
painful ; not to the true lovers, patrons, 
and servants of mankind. 

And I take it, this is a type of our 
division: that you are one of those 
who have an eye for faults and failures ; 
that you take a pleasure to find and 
publish them; and that, having found 
them, you make haste to forget the 
overvailing virtues and the real success 
w^hich had alone introduced them to 
your knowledge. It is a dangerous 
frame of mind. That you may under- 
stand how^ dangerous, and into w^hat 
a situation it has already brought you, 
we will (if you please) go hand-in-hand 
through the different phrases of your 
letter, and candidly examine each from 

28 f atber Damien. 

the point of view of its truth, its 
appositeness, and its charity. 

Damien w^as coarse. 

It is very possible. You make us sorry 
for the lepers, who had only a coarse 
old peasant for their friend and Father, 
But you, who were so refined, why 
w^ere j-^ou not there to cheer them with 
the lights of culture ? Or may I remind 
you that we have some reason to doubt 
if John the Baptist were genteel; and, 
in the case of Peter, on w^hose career 
you doubtless dwell approvingly in the 
pulpit, no doubt at all that he was a 
"coarse, headstrong " fisherman ! Yet, 
even in our Protestant Bibles, Peter is 
called Saint. 

Damien was dirty. 

He w^as. Think of the poor lej^ers 
annoyed with this dirty comrade ! But 
the clean Dr. Hyde was at his food in 
a fine house. 

Robert Xoutd Stevenson. 29 

Damien was headstrong: 

I believe you are right again; and I 
thank God for his strong head and 

Damien was bigoted. 

I am not fond of bigots myself, be- 
cause they are not fond of me. But 
w^hat is meant by bigotry, that we 
should regard it as a blemish in a 
priest? Damien believed his own re- 
ligion with the simplicity of a peasant 
or a child; as I would I could suppose 
that you do. For this, I wonder at him 
some way off; and had that been his 
only character, should have avoided 
him in life. But the point of interest in 
Damien, which has caused him to be so 
much talked about and made him at 
last the subject of your pen and mine, 
was that, in him, his bigotry, his in- 
tense and narrow faith, wrought 
potently for good, and strengthened 

30 #atber Damien. 

him to be one of tlic world's heroes 
and exemplars. 

Damien was not sent to Molokai, 
but went there without orders. 

Is this a misreading ? or do you really 
mean the words for blame? I have 
heard Christ, in the pulpits of our 
Church, held up for imitation on the 
ground that His sacrifice was volun- 
tary. Does Dr. H^'-de think otherwise? 

Damien did not stay at the settle- 
ment, etc. 

It is true he was allowed many in- 
dulgences. Am I to understand that 
you blame the Father for profiting b}'- 
these, or the officers for granting them ? 
In either case, it is a mighty Spartan 
standard to issue from the house on 
Beretania Street; and I am convinced 
you will find yourself with few sup- 

I^obert Xouid Stcveneon. 31 

Damien bad no hand in the reforms, 

I think even you will admit that I 
have already been frank in my descrip- 
tion of the man I am defending; but 
before I take you up upon this head, 
I will be franker still, and tell you that 
perhaps nowhere in the world can a 
man taste a more pleasurable sense of 
contrast than when he passes from Da- 
mien's "Chinatown "at Kalawao to the 
beautiful Bishop's-Home at Kalaupapa. 
At this point, in my desire to make 
all fair for you, I will break my rule 
and adduce Catholic testimony. Here 
is a passage from my diary about my 
visit to the Chinatown, from which 
you will see how it is (even now^) re- 
garded by its own officials: "We went 
round all the dormitories, refectories, 
etc. — dark and dingy enough, with a 
superficial cleanliness, which he" [Mr. 

32 ffatbcr JDamien. 

Dutton, the lay brother] "did not seek 
to defend. *It is almost decent,' said 
he ; * the Sisters will make that all right 
when w^e get them here.' " And yet 1 
gathered it was already better since 
Damien was dead, and far better than 
when he was there alone and had his 
own (not always excellent) way. I 
have now come far enough to meet 
you on a common ground of fact ; <and 
I tell you that, to a mind not prejudiced 
by jealousy, all the reforms of the Laza- 
retto, and even those w^hicli he most 
vigorously opposed, are properly the 
w^ork of Damien. Thc}-^ are the evidence 
of his success; they iire what his hero- 
ism provoked from the reluctant land 
the careless. Many were before him in 
the field; Mr. Meyer, for instance, of 
whose faithful work we hear too little ; 
there have been many since ; and «ome 
had more worldly wisdom, though none 

"Robert Xouis Stevenson. 33 

had more devotion, than our saint. Be- 
fore his day, even you will confess, they 
had effected little. It was his part, by 
one striking act of martyrdom, to direct 
all men's eyes on that distressful 
country. At a blow, and with the 
price of his life, he made the place 
illustrious and public. And, that, if you 
will consider largely, was the one re- 
form needful; pregnant of all that 
should succeed. It brought money; it 
brought (best individual addition of 
them all ) the Sisters ; it brought suj)er- 
vision, for public opinion and public 
interest landed with the man at Kala- 
wao. If ever any man brought reforms, 
and died to bring them, it w^as he. 
There is not a clean cup or tow^el in 
the Bishop's - Home but dirty Damien 
Avashed it. 

Damien was not a pure man in his 
relations with w^omen, etc. 

34 yatber Damfen. 

How do you know that? Is this 
the nature of the conversation in that 
house on Beretania Street w^hich the 
cabman envied, driving past? — racy 
details of the misconduct of the poor 
peasant priest, toiling imder the cliffs 
of Molokai ? 

Many have visited the station be- 
fore me; they seem not to have heard 
the rumor. When I was there I heard 
many shocking tales, for my informants 
were men speaking with the plainness 
of the laity; and I heard plenty of 
complaints of Damien. Why was this 
never mentioned ? and how came it to 
you in the retirement of your clerical 
parlor ? 

But I must not even seem to deceive 
you. This scandal, when I read it in 
your letter, was not new to me. I had 
heard it once before; and I must tell 
you how. There came to Samoa a man 

Kobert Xouig Stevenson. 35 

from Honolulu; he, in a public-house 
on the beach, volunteered the statement 
that Damien had "contracted the dis- 
ease from having connection with the 
female lepers "; and I find a joy in telling 
you how the report was welcomed in 
a public-house. A man sprang to his 
feet; I am not at liberty to give his 
name, but from what I heard I doubt 
if you would care to have him to dinner 
in Beretania Street. "You miserable lit- 
tle ," (here is a word I dare not print, 

it w^ould so shock your ears). "You 

miserable little ," he cried," if the 

story were a thousand times true, can't 
you see you are a million times a lower 

for daring to repeat it?" I wish 

it could be told of you that when the 
report reached you in your house, per- 
haps after family worship, you had 
found in your soul enough holy anger 
to receive it with the same expressions ; 

36 yatbcr Bamicn. 

ay, even with that one which I dare 
not print; it would not need to have 
been blotted awa\', like Uncle Toby's 
oath, by the tears of the recording 
angel; it would have been counted to 
3'ou for your brightest righteousness. 
But you have deliberatel}^ chosen the 
part of the man from Honolulu, and 
3'ou have played it with improvements 
of your own. The man from Honolulu 
— miserable, leering creature — communi- 
cated the tale to a rude knot of beach- 
combing drinkers in a public-house, 
where (I will so far agree with your 
temperance opinions) man is not al- 
ways at his noblest; and the man 
from Honolulu had himself been drink- 
ing—drinking, we ma}' charitably fancy, 
to excess. It was to your "Dear 
Brother, the Reverend H. B. Gage," 
that you chose to communicate the 
sickening storj-; and the blue ribbon 

Uobcrt XoulB Stevenson. ^7 

which adorns your jDortly bosom for- 
bids me to allow you the extenuating 
plea that you were drunk when it was 
done. Your * ' dear brother ' ' — a brother 
indeed — made haste to deliver up your 
letter (as a means of grace, perhaps) 
to the religious papers; where, after 
many months, I found and read and 
wondered at it; and whence I have 
now reproduced it for the w^onder of 
others. And you and your dear brother 
have, by this cycle of operations, built 
up a contrast very edifying to examine 
in detail. The man whom you would 
not care to have to dinner, on the one 
side; on the other, the Reverend Dr. 
Hyde and the Reverend H. B. Gage ; the 
Apia bar-room, the Honolulu manse. 
But I fear you scarce appreciate how 
you appear to your fellowtnen: and 
to bring it home to you, I will suppose 
your story to be true- I will suppose 

38 ^atber iPamien. 

— and God forgive me for supposing it 
— ^that Damien faltered and stumbled 
in his narrow path of duty ; I Avill sup- 
pose that, in the horror of his isolation, 
perhaps in the fever of incipient disease, 
he, who was doing so much more than 
he had sworn, failed in the letter of his 
priestly oath — he, who was so much a 
better man than either you or me, who 
did what we have never dreamed of 
daring — he too tasted of our common 
frailty. " lago, the pity of it ! " The 
least tender should be moved to tears; 
the most incredulous to prayer. And 
all that you could do was to pen your 
letter to the Reverend H. B. Gage ! 

Is it growing at all clear to you what 
a picture you have drawn of your own 
heart? I will trj-^ yet once again to 
make it clearer. You had a father: 
suppose this tale were about him, and 
some informant brought it to you, 

"Robert Xouis Stevenson. 39 

proof in hand: I am not making too 
high an estimate of your emotional 
nature when I suppose you would re- 
gret the circumstance ? that you would 
feel the tale of frailty the more keenly 
since it shamed the author of your 
days? and that the last thing you 
would do would be to publish it in the 
religious press? Well, the man who 
tried to do what Damien did is my 
Father, and the Father of the man in 
the Apia bar, and the Father of all 
who love goodness; and he was your 
Father, too, if God had given you grace 
■♦■'^ see it. 

jTartjer 5©amicn. 

APRIL, 1S89. 

4ftO golden dome shines over Damien's sleep; 
J'A A leper's grave upon a leprous strand, 
Where hope is dead, and hand must shrink 
from hand, 
Where cataracts wail towards a moaning deep, 
And frowning purple cliffs in mercy keep 
All wholesome life at distance, hath God 

For him who led his saintly hero band, 
And died a shepherd of Christ's exiled sheep. 

O'er Damien's dust the broad skies bend for 
Stars burn for golden letters, and the sea 
Shall roll perpetual anthem round his rest: 
For Damien made the charnel-house life's home, 
Matched love with death; and Damien's name 
shall be 
A glorious l)enediction, world-possest. 

H. D. RawnslEY. 

^ Companion IBoolk. 

~('*ttb« Xcpera of flDolobai," b? Cbarlce "Oaarren StoN>art.) 


"Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Open Letter to 
the Rev. Dr. Hyde of Honolulu' has pilloried 
the defanter of the martyr for all time"; in 
Charles Warren Stoddard's transporting volume, 
the prologue to which is here presented, the martyr's 
memory is forever hallowed. 


women following a few silent people, 
who were being conducted with decent 
haste toward the esplanade of Honolulu. 

The miserable beings, with a dazed 
look of lingering death in their fearful 
countenances, were soon disposed on the 
deck of a small outward-bound craft; 
and then, in the few moments that inter- 
vened between the casting off of the 
shoreline and the sudden impulse of 
the little steamer as she swung about in 
mid-stream, and made bravely for the 
mouth of the harbor, the pitiful wail of 
men, women and children was renewed. 
Those grouped upon the extreme edge 
of the wharf were wringing their hands 
over the water, while rivers of tears 
coursed down their ashen cheeks. The 
others, upon the deck of the departing 
vessel, brooded for a time as in dull 
agony, but anon an unearthly cry rang 
over the tranquil sea: it was their long 

The sun, just touching the horizon, 
seemed to pause for a moment, while 
the great deep burst into a sheet of 
flame; tongues of fire darted and played 
among the wavelets as they tossed in 


the evening breeze; and the broad rays 
shot from cloud to cloud, painting them 
with glory, and crowning the peaks of 
the beautiful island with red-gold. Even 
the palm-trees were gilded, and their 
plumes glistened as they swayed rhyth- 
mically to the low melody of the tide 
that ebbed beneath them. 

So faded that ill-starred bark like 
a mote in the shimmering sea. A few 
moments only, and the splendor died 
away — the twilight glow of the tropics 
is as brief as it is intense — and the sudden 
coming of night drew a veil over a picture 
that, though frequent, is nevertheless 
painful to the least sympathetic observer. 

Darkness had come; the silence that 
came with it was broken only by the 
splash of ripples under the bow of some 
passing canoe, or the low moan of the 
water upon the distant reef. But the 
mourners were still crouching upon the 
edge of the dock, whence their eyes had 
caught the last glimpse of the fading 
forms of those whom they were never 
again to behold in the flesh; for those 
despairing but unresisting souls, swallowed 
up in the transfiguration of the sunset, 


were lepers, snatched from the breast 
of sympathy and from the arms of love, 
doomed to the hopeless degradation of 
everlasting banishment, and borne in 
the night to that dim island whose 
melancholy shores are the sole refuge 
of these hostages to death: an island 
as solitary, as silent, as serene as dream- 
land — mournful Molokai. 


Father Damien.